Jammed Finger 101: Symptoms, Treatment Options and Causes

jammed finger

Finger injuries are no laughing matter. In fact, more than 100 million Americans go to the emergency room every year for hand and finger injuries. Experiencing problems with your fingers can mean time away from work, loads of pain, and difficulty accomplishing daily tasks.

If you think you happen to have a jammed finger, it’s important that you get it treated as soon as possible. So continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know – from the causes to the symptoms to the treatments – about jammed fingers.

What Is a Jammed Finger?

Jammed fingers can be extremely painful and they can make it difficult for you to execute simple tasks. A jammed finger is usually a sprain to the knuckle or joint of your finger. You might also have a dislocation or small fracture of the joint.

Jammed fingers are extremely common in sports. If your finger takes on the full impact of a volleyball spike, basketball rebound, or hard hit baseball, you will probably experience a jammed finger.

Your impacted finger, or fingers, will likely swell and be extremely sensitive to touch. Jammed fingers should be given immediate treatment so expedite the healing process. When a jammed finger is not immediately treated, it might mask further damage such as dislocations or fractures.

What Causes a Jammed Finger

As we already mentioned, jammed fingers are often caused by sports injuries. However, there are other ways to get a jammed finger. If you reach your arm out to stop a fall and your finger hits the ground straight-on, you may very well end up with a jammed finger. If there’s no fracture, this type of injury tends to heal quickly.

However, the pain can linger for many months whenever direct pressure is placed upon the injured finger.

Essentially, whenever you smash your finger against an object, and the force presses the tip of your finger down into your hand, that leads to what’s known as a jammed finger. When the tip of the finger hits an object, the PIP (proximal interphalangeal) joint that’s in the middle of your finger will absorb the force of the impact. The ligament in your finger will then get stretched.

When you get a jammed finger, it can unfortunately lead to other complications. These include:

  • stiffness in your finger
  • a permanent inability to make your finger straight
  • traumatic arthritis, which is long-term swelling and pain in your joint
  • weakness in your finger
  • deformity of the joint

It’s complications like these that make it so important for you properly diagnose and then treat your jammed finger as quickly as possible.


For most people, they can diagnose and then treat their jammed fingers on their own. If you can’t straighten or bend your finger or you’re in a lot of pain, you should either see your doctor straight away or go to the emergency room in order to get treatment. These extreme symptoms can mean that you have a ruptured tendon or broken bone.

When you go to the doctor, they will check your finger to see if it’s swelling. They will also ask you about how painful it is and they’ll see how well you can move the finger. Also, comparing your impacted finger to the fingers around it can help you and your doctor determine how much swelling is actually occurring.

If they fear that your finger is broken or there’s some other damage going on inside it, your doctor may very well order you an X-ray so that they can get a better look. You also might have to get a CT scan or MRI so that your doctor can further check on your injury.


There are various treatment options that you can utilize in order to have a speedy and full recovery for your finger. The very first thing you should do is ice it.

Icing Your Finger

When ligaments and muscles get injured, the inflammatory response in the body is to increase the supply of blood going to the injured area. This is what leads to increased redness and warmth. The damaged tissues also release chemical messengers known as cytokines.

Cytokines cause blood vessels to transport fluid to the surrounding tissues and this leads your injury to swell. The swelling actually accumulates under the inelastic membrane of the muscle. As the pressure increase, the pain also increases.

Icing the injured area can reduce swelling and also help you recover faster. Ice works because it constricts the blood vessels that are carrying the cytokines to the injury.

This slows down the painful inflammatory process. You should ice your finger with an ice pack. You can also use frozen vegetables after first wrapping them in a thin towel.

Ice your finger for 15-minute intervals. In between, remove the ice and wait for the finger to return to regular temperature before you start icing again. You also want to keep your finger elevated as much as possible so that the blood doesn’t pool and the swelling gets worse.

Test the Finger for Range of Motion and Movement

If the pain in your finger gets work, or you’re having serious trouble moving it, then you should see a doctor and have them take an X-ray. Once the pain goes away and the swelling decreases, try to slightly move your finger. If the injury is only mild, you should be able to move it without much pain over a short period of time.

Splint the Finger

There are three different ways to protect your jammed finger. The first and easiest way is the “buddy splint.”

Buddy Splint

Line your injured finger up next to a healthy finger. Then, grab some strong tape and tape your two fingers together a few times around. If your injury isn’t too bad, then this should be sufficient in helping your finger heal.

Wooden Plank

Another way to splint your finger is to use a small wooden plank. A popsicle stick or tongue depressor will do just fine. Put a stick on both the front and backside of your finger and then roll some tape around it.

You especially want to get the plank to go over the tip of the finger. The tip of your finger is likely the most sensitive part, so you want to make sure that it’s as protected as possible.

Metal Splint

Another method is to go to your local drug store and purchase a metal finger splint. These splints are made out of soft metal that you can bend.

Put the metal splint until the healthy finger that corresponds to your injured one. Bend that finger over the splint slightly so that the splint better fits the finger. Then, place the splint under the injured finger and tape it up.

If your finger doesn’t seem like it’s getting any better within the next three to six days, it’s time for you to see a doctor.

A lot of times, the pain won’t be in the joint. It might be in the shaft or in the actual bone itself. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance that your finger is broken.

As the days go on, try to bend the finger more and more. You can also use your other hand to bend the joints slowly of the injured finger in order to assist in its recovery. This is called active assistive range of motion or passive range.

Once you can bend your finger without help and it doesn’t hurt, it’s time to start strengthening. You should be able to achieve a pretty full range of motion here.


One great way to strengthen a jammed finger is to get a balloon or a ball that’s soft and squishy. You want something that doesn’t have a lot of resistance. Go ahead and squeeze on the object.

You can use the one injured finger or use your whole hand if that helps. You want to work it to where you’re just squeezing with that one finger. You want to do that for ten to twenty reps.

Once that gets too easy and you’re squeezing it in pretty deep, then you might want to go to something like one of those small squish balls. As your finger gets stronger, you want to start using stiffer and stiffer balls.

You can do general mobility exercises as well. For example, you can touch your thumb to each finger. You can also make your hand flat and straight and then retract your fingers so your hand looks sort of like a claw.

You can also extend your whole hand and then quickly make a fist.

See an Osteopath or Chiropractor

Undergoing exercises for physical therapy can help you achieve a full recovery. However, you should first start by checking with an osteopath or chiropractor to make sure that the healing is going as it should be. When you experienced a minor or serious injury, you don’t want to injure the finger even more and develop problems later on down the line.

One of these medical specialists will be able to let you know that your recovering finger is maintaining a proper range of motion, circulation, and movement. They also might be able to offer you next steps should any new problems arise.

Use It or Lose It

After you’ve performed your due diligence and you’ve made sure that you’re going about your treatment plan as you’re supposed to, you want to use your finger as normally as possible. If you don’t use your finger, it can lose its strength during the healing process.


Most of the time, a finger that’s been jammed can get better on its own within just a few weeks. But even with proper and immediate treatment, it can still take several months for your finger to stop being swollen and sensitive.

During the recovery period, you want to use your finger as little as possible so that it can heal better. You should take a break from physical activities, including sports, as these can make your injury worse.

After your finger has healed, you should be able to make it straight without experiencing any pain.

By following the care instructions from your physical therapist or doctor, you’ll have the best chances for a full and speedy recovery. If you don’t undergo the correct treatment plan, then you may end up suffering from long-term damage to the finger and can have trouble moving it.

If you have any concerns or questions about your treatment plan or diagnosis, you should see your doctor. The sooner a correct diagnosis can be made, the sooner you’ll be administered the correct treatment, and the faster your finger will heal.

The Importance of Knowing About Jammed Fingers

A jammed finger can be extremely painful. Unfortunately, it’s also quite difficult to prevent.

This is why it’s so important that you educate yourself about the subject. The next time you end up getting hit on the tip of your finger, you’ll be able to know immediately what you’re supposed to do.

As we’ve already mentioned, the sooner you can apply the proper treatment, the quicker and easier your recovery process is going to be. Even if it appears that you only have a minor injury, you should take the situation seriously and exercise caution.

Are you currently experiencing finger or hand problems? If so, contact us today and see how we can help you!

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The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas offers diagnosis and treatment for hand, wrist, and elbow problems in Houston, using the most advanced and minimally invasive medical techniques. Our orthopedic hand specialists and hand and finger surgeons are waiting to provide you with excellent care at one of our hand care centers in River Oaks, Webster, North Houston, Katy/Sugarland, or Baytown

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